|Publication number||US6838874 B1|
|Application number||US 10/349,650|
|Publication date||Jan 4, 2005|
|Filing date||Jan 23, 2003|
|Priority date||Jan 23, 2003|
|Also published as||US7057386|
|Publication number||10349650, 349650, US 6838874 B1, US 6838874B1, US-B1-6838874, US6838874 B1, US6838874B1|
|Inventors||Angela G. Franklin|
|Original Assignee||National Semiconductor Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (3), Referenced by (17), Classifications (8), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention is generally directed to the field of semiconductor wafer manufacturing, and more specifically to systems for detecting metal content on a semiconductor surface and method of operating the same.
Semiconductor wafer manufacturing processes are complex and include a plethora of processing steps. These processing steps are, during each of the sequences that are executed as part of the step, closely monitored and may result in a complex web of rework, rejects, partial rework, etc. This invariably results in many diverse flows of partially completed wafers, as opposed to the ideal processing sequence where a wafer proceeds from known step to known step.
Wafers may repeat prior process steps causing concerns of wafers downstream in the processing line to be contaminated with wafers that have already undergone more advanced steps of processing.
It is appropriately important to screen for such occurrences and to limit or eliminate the impact of contamination that may be introduced into a wafer processing operation by wafers that are not part of the regular wafer process flow.
During normal wafer processing, meticulous attention is paid to maintaining a clean, particle free environment. This clean environment has a direct impact on wafer yield and cost. Wafer processing by its very nature tends to introduce impurities into the processing environment; these impurities can for instance be introduced from wafer processing furnaces, by way of example.
In point of fact, particles may diffuse into the semiconductor substrate, especially in areas of the manufacturing process where high frequency operations are being performed on the substrate. This can have a severe detrimental effect on wafer properties making these wafers unsuitable for further use.
In other cases, donor or acceptor dopants may be introduced to substrates. These dopants can have a direct affect on the performance of the devices that are at a later stage to be created from these wafers. Alternatively, other impurities can cause surface defects in the wafer or stacking faults or dislocations in the atomic structure of the substrate. For instance, poor wafer surface can be caused by organic matter that is present in the wafer-processing environment, such as oil or oil related matter.
All possible impurities must be carefully monitored and controlled and must, when present, be removed from the wafer processing environment. This control must be exercised within the cycle of wafer processing steps and at the beginning of the wafer manufacturing process.
The frequency and intensity of such contaminant control operations is highly cost dependent and should, wherever possible, be performed at as low a cost as can be accomplished. Methods of identification and elimination must therefore be simple but effective. Processing conditions and environments can lead to the introduction of a large number of contaminants and therefore lead to the need for strict control of the environment and the way in which the wafers that are being processed are being routed.
Among the contaminants that can accumulate on the surface of a substrate are metals, such as copper, aluminum or the like. Control mechanisms that enhance the monitoring of the level of metal deposited on the surface of a wafer prevent unnecessary rerouting and rework of such wafers. Production cost of semiconductor wafers will be reduced if such wafers can be identified so that only wafers that need to be rerouted for rework are entered into the rework cycle.
There is therefore a need in the art for a system for detecting metal content of a semiconductor surface and method for operating the same, particularly, to detect deposited or sputtered metal layers on all forms of wafer substrates.
To address the above-discussed deficiencies of the prior art, it is a primary object of the present invention to provide an apparatus for detecting the presence of metal material in a semiconductor wafer. According to an advantageous embodiment of the present invention, the apparatus includes (i) a current-carrying coil for generating a first magnetic field, wherein the first magnetic field is capable of causing the metal material in the semiconductor wafer to generate an opposing magnetic field; and (ii) a detection circuit for detecting the opposing magnetic field generated by the metal material when the semiconductor wafer is in proximity to the current-carrying coil.
According to various advantageous embodiments of the present invention, the apparatus may be associated with a housing, wherein the housing is operable to receive the semiconductor wafer. For instance, the apparatus may suitably be associated with at least one of a sidewall, a bottom wall or a top wall of the housing. According to alternate embodiments, the apparatus may be associated with a portable device, whether wired or wireless, that may be moved into close proximity of the semiconductor wafer under consideration.
Another primary object of the present invention is to provide a method of detecting the presence of metal material in a semiconductor wafer. The method includes the steps of: (i) generating a first magnetic field using a current-carrying coil, wherein the first magnetic field is capable of causing the metal material in the semiconductor wafer to generate an opposing magnetic field; (ii) bringing the semiconductor wafer in proximity to the current-carrying coil; and (iii) detecting the opposing magnetic field generated by the metal material when the semiconductor wafer is in proximity to the current-carrying coil.
According to a related embodiment, in response to detecting the opposing magnetic field, the method further includes the step to generate indicia indicating that metal material is present on a semiconductor wafer.
In an alternate embodiment, it may be possible to determine whether the detected metal is within an acceptable tolerance level. Preferably, such tolerance indicia is compared with at least one threshold, possibly associated with one or more characteristics of the semiconductor wafer, a type of semiconductor wafer, or a use of the semiconductor wafer, whether intended or otherwise. In response to such comparison, the method may further include the step of initiating an alarm event, communicating such tolerance indicia to a monitoring controller, generating statistics, or the like.
The foregoing has outlined rather broadly the features and technical advantages of the present invention so that those skilled in the art may better understand the detailed description of the invention that follows. Additional features and advantages of the invention will be described hereinafter that form the subject of the claims of the invention. Those skilled in the art should appreciate that they may readily use the conception and the specific embodiment disclosed as a basis for modifying or designing other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the present invention. Those skilled in the art should also realize that such equivalent constructions do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention in its broadest form.
Before undertaking the DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION below, it may be advantageous to set forth definitions of certain words and phrases used throughout this patent document: the terms “include” and “comprise,” as well as derivatives thereof, mean inclusion without limitation; the term “or,” is inclusive, meaning and/or; the phrases “associated with” and “associated therewith,” as well as derivatives thereof, may mean to include, be included within, interconnect with, contain, be contained within, connect to or with, couple to or with, be communicable with, cooperate with, interleave, juxtapose, be proximate to, be bound to or with, have, have a property of, or the like; and the terms “controller” and “processor” may be used interchangeably and mean any device, system or part thereof that controls at least one operation, such a device may be implemented in hardware, firmware or software, or some combination of at least two of the same. It should be noted that the functionality associated with any particular controller may be centralized or distributed, whether locally or remotely. Definitions for certain words and phrases are provided throughout this patent document, those of ordinary skill in the art should understand that in many, if not most instances, such definitions apply to prior, as well as future uses of such defined words and phrases.
For a more complete understanding of the present invention and its advantages, reference is now made to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numerals represent like parts:
Turning initially to
Exemplary metal detector 100 includes a current-carrying coil and a detection circuit (both shown with reference to FIG. 2B). The current-carrying coil operates to generate a magnetic field that is capable of causing any metal material present in semiconductor waters 120 to generate an opposing magnetic field. The detection circuit operates to detect any opposing magnetic field generated by any metal material present when the semiconductor wafers 120 are in proximity to the current-carrying coil.
Exemplary housing 105 is illustrated as a tray for holding the semiconductor wafers 120. For the purposes of this patent document, the term “housing” may be defined broadly as anything that covers, protects, supports, ensconces, holds or otherwise positions the semiconductor wafers 120 for metal material detection as set forth herein, including for instance any frame, bracket, box or the like, whether portable or stationary, and whether including movable parts or not.
Metal detector 100 is a handheld device that is associated with exemplary stabilizing handle 110 and power supply 115. Stabilizing handle 110 steadies metal detector 100 as it sweeps over semiconductor wafers 120. Power supply 115 is illustratively external to metal detector 100 and operates to provide power thereto (according to alternate embodiments, power supply 115 may suitably be disposed within or otherwise associated with metal detector 100 or stabilizing handle 110). Metal detector 100 may be arranged to receive alternating current (“AC”) or direct current (“DC”).
Turning next to
Exemplary metal detector 100 again includes a current-carrying coil and a detection circuit (both shown with reference to FIG. 2B), which operate as described above. Advantageously, metal detector 100 is associated with housing 105, and although shown as disposed in a top wall thereof, may be associated with housing 105 in any manner suitable for detection of metal material. In this embodiment, housing 105 is operable to receive the semiconductor wafers 120 in sliding tray 125. Other exemplary dispositions of metal detector 100 may be in at least one of a sidewall or a bottom wall of housing 105.
It should be noted that the prior-introduced embodiment of
Turning next to
Exemplary current carrying coil 205 operates to generate a first magnetic field that is capable of causing any metal material associated with any of semiconductor wafers 120 to generate an opposing magnetic field. Exemplary detection circuit 210 operates to detect the opposing magnetic field generated by the metal material when the semiconductor wafer is in proximity to the current-carrying coil. When current flows through a coil in close proximity to a conducting surface the magnetic field of the coil induces circulating (or “eddy”) currents in that surface of the semiconductor wafer 120. The magnitude and phase of the eddy currents will affect the loading on the coil and thus its impedance.
In operation, for example, the flat shape and organized structure of a silicone wafer 120 once it is doped provide optimal conditions for the formation of eddy currents. When scanning doped semiconductor wafers 120, metal detector 100 senses the presence of metal materials by detecting the opposing magnetic field.
Exemplary notification circuit 215, in response to detecting the opposing magnetic field, operates to generate indicia indicating that metal material is present on a semiconductor wafer 120. In alternate embodiments, it may be possible to arrange notification circuit 215 to determine whether the detected metal is within a tolerance level—meaning acceptable or not. Such indicia may be compared with at least one threshold, possibly associated with one or more characteristics of the semiconductor wafer under consideration, a type of semiconductor wafer, or a use of the semiconductor wafer, whether intended or otherwise. In response to such comparison, notification circuit 215 may initiate an alert signal or alarm event (e.g., generate an audio indicator (e.g., beep, buzz, etc.), a visual indicator (e.g., LED indicator, etc.), a touch-sensitive indicator (e.g., vibration, etc.) corresponding to a drop in impedance caused by eddy currents sensed), communicate such tolerance indicia to a monitoring controller (shown with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5), generate statistical information or any other data concerning the same, or the like.
To begin, a semiconductor fabrication facility 305 operates a plurality of conventional wafer processing devices (not shown)., each of which is capable of performing at least one wafer fabrication process (process step 310). The wafer processing devices fabricate semiconductor wafers 120.
Ones of semiconductor wafers 120 are positioned in association with (or in association with means for positioning the semiconductor wafers 120) an apparatus 10 for detecting the presence of metal material therein (process step 315). Apparatus 10 generates a first magnetic field using a current-carrying coil 205, wherein the first magnetic field is capable of causing metal material in any of the ones of semiconductor wafers 120 to generate an opposing magnetic field (process step 320). Apparatus 10 and one or more semiconductor wafers 120 under examination are brought in suitable proximity with respect to one another and detection circuit 210 operates to detect any opposing magnetic field generated if any metal material is present on any of semiconductor wafers 120 (decision step 325).
In response to detecting the opposing magnetic field (“YES” branch of decision step 325), notification circuit 215 generates indicia indicating that metal material is present on a semiconductor wafer 120 (process step 330).
In an alternate embodiment, it may be possible to arrange notification circuit 215 to determine whether the detected metal is within a tolerance level. Such indicia may be compared with at least one threshold, possibly associated with one or more characteristics of the semiconductor wafer, a type of semiconductor wafer, or a use of the semiconductor wafer, whether intended or otherwise. In response to such comparison, notification circuit 215 may similarly initiate the alert signal or alarm event, communicate such tolerance indicia to a monitoring controller (shown with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5), generate statistical information or any other data concerning the same, or the like.
Exemplary unit 400 illustratively includes a receiver antenna 405, indicator LED's 410 (e.g., including indicators for as many detector functions as are employed in the specific embodiment of apparatus 10 being monitored, as well as an indicator for unit on/off status), and a user interface input keypad 415 for unit setup, reset and alarm deactivation. Power access is also provided at switch 420.
Exemplary RF receiver 425 operates to receive indicia signal transmissions, such as, for instance, an alert signal or alarm event 427, statistical information or any other data concerning the same, or the like. Receiver 425 communicates received signals to processor 430 for identification and appropriate output. Processor 430 also receives inputs from keypad 415 and power switch 420. Exemplary non-volatile memory 435 is provided for input of identification of the user or of apparatus 10 being monitored. Audible alarm 427, LED bank 410 and retransmission unit 440 (e.g., auto-dialer, imbedded digital wireless technology, RF transmitter or the like) are connected to receive outputs from processor 430.
In exemplary operation, when a transmission is received, including when power at apparatus 10 is low, an alarm may be sounded and the appropriate LED (e.g., indicative of the condition causing the alarm event, for example a malfunction of apparatus 10, sensing of metal material in semiconductor wafers 120, etc.) is activated. If not disabled by the user at apparatus 10 within a short period of time, processor 430 activates retransmission unit 440 initiating a call for help or other remote notification (as discussed with reference to FIG. 5).
Operational setup of unit 400 is also accomplished under programming at processor 430 and by sequential operation by a user or technician of keypad 415 (including user ID set, learn mode operations, reset or reprogramming operations, urgency code operations, and the like).
Turning lastly to
Dotted lines show the approximate boundaries of the cell sites 505 to 515 in which BS 520 to 530 are located. The cell sites are shown approximately circular for the purposes of illustration and explanation only. It should be clearly understood that the cell sites also may have irregular shapes, depending on the cell configuration selected and natural and manmade obstructions, and may be part of an intranet or an extranet, or both, as the case may be. Alternatively, the network may suitably be wired, at least in part.
In one embodiment of the present invention, BS 520 to 530 may comprise a base station controller (“BSC”) and a base transceiver station (“BTS”). BSC and BTS are well known to those skilled in the art. A BSC is a device that manages wireless communications resources, including the BTS, for specified cells within a wireless communications network. A BTS comprises the RF transceivers, antennas, and other electrical equipment located in each cell site. This equipment may include air conditioning units, heating units, electrical supplies, telephone line interfaces, and RF transmitters and RF receivers, as well as call processing circuitry. For the purpose of simplicity and clarity in explaining the operation of the present invention, the BTS in each of cells 505 to 515 and the BSC associated with each BTS are collectively represented by BS 520 to 530, respectively.
BS 520 to 530 may transfer voice or data signals between each other and, possibly, a public telephone system (not shown) via communications line 555 and mobile switching center (“MSC”) 560. MSC 560 is well known to those skilled in the art, and is a switching device that provides services and coordination between the subscribers in a wireless network and external networks, such as the Internet, public telephone system, etc. Communications line 555 may be any suitable connection means, including a T1 line, a T3 line, a fiber optic link, a network backbone connection, and the like. In some embodiments of the present invention, communications line 555 may be several different data links, where each data link couples one of BS 520 to 530 to MSC 560.
In the exemplary wireless network 500, MS 535 is located in cell site 505 and is in communication with BS 520, MS 545 is located in cell site 510 and is in communication with BS 525, and MS 550 is located in cell site 515 and is in communication with BS 530. MS 540 is also located in cell site 505, close to the edge of cell site 515. The direction arrow proximate MS 540 indicates the movement of MS 540 towards cell site 515 and a communications handoff thereto.
For the purposes of illustration, it is assumed that unit 400 receives indicia signals, including possibly alert signals or alarm events, statistical information or any other data concerning the same, or the like. In response to application dependent programming at unit 400 for semiconductor fabrication facility 305 for metal material detection in semiconductor wafers 120, supervisors or management, whether human or machine, may be communicated information concerning such indicia signals periodically, or based upon accumulation or relevant priority of such received signals or information related thereto.
For instance, as semiconductor wafers 120 are positioned in association with apparatus 10, and, in response to detecting opposing magnetic fields in an intolerable quantity of wafers 120 (possibly in a particular lot or group of lots), notification circuit 215 generates a “priority” indicia signal indicating that metal material is present in an unacceptable quantity of wafers 120. This signal is communicated from apparatus 10 to unit 400. In response thereto, unit 400 communicates the same via network 500 to MS 540, a mobile communication device controlled by an appropriate fabrication supervisor. The supervisor is informed of the problem expeditiously.
Although the present invention has been described with an exemplary embodiment, various changes and modifications may be suggested to one skilled in the art. It is intended that the present invention encompass such changes and modifications as fall within the scope of the appended claims.
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|U.S. Classification||324/260, 324/228|
|International Classification||G01V3/15, G01N27/72|
|Cooperative Classification||G01N27/72, G01V3/15|
|European Classification||G01V3/15, G01N27/72|
|Jan 23, 2003||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR CORPORATION, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:FRANKLIN, ANGELA G.;REEL/FRAME:013700/0644
Effective date: 20030117
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